As itinerant teachers of the deaf, we depend on our relationships with other professionals in school buildings to ensure comprehensive services for our students and carryover of skills. I try to co-treat regularly with a speech-language pathologist (SLP), reading teacher or special education teacher on each student’s school team. Not only does this help my students by promoting consistency of instructional strategies, but it helps me to have regular communication with other specialists and gives me an opportunity to build trusting relationships while weaving in ongoing training on hearing loss and related challenges. During the pandemic, I am also finding that these service providers are as overwhelmed as I am! Together, we’ve gotten creative and found new ways to divide and conquer so that our students are getting what they need.
Ongoing training on hearing loss and related challenges is critical. In-services at the start of the school year are an opportunity to provide basic information but the nuances of working with students with hearing loss are much more involved than what can be covered in one hour. Co-treating is an opportunity to discuss, demonstrate and collaborate on these complex challenges. I usually plan to run half of the session while the other service provider runs the second part. This way we are able to observe each other and offer feedback and ask questions. Often email is not enough to understand a situation. Seeing it in action makes a big difference! I can set up my student to demonstrate their difficulty with comprehension of temporal clauses for example. If the SLP is having a hard time determining how to help the student with a particular auditory skill, she can model her techniques and together we can figure out where the difficulty lies. I am also constantly learning! While hearing loss is my expertise, I am not an SLP, a special education teacher or a reading specialist. I usually walk away from these co-treat sessions having gained new skills, strategies and materials too!
IEP objectives can fall into a bit of a gray area. When there is a teacher of the deaf and an SLP on the team, often I take the auditory sections and the SLP takes articulation—but what about language? Communication? These areas cross over into both areas. Sharing these objectives allows for more consistent practice for the student as long as the professionals are on the same page in terms of how they will be taught (see co-treat ). I have found that this year more than ever, the SLPs I work with have huge caseloads and very little time. I’ve been able to relieve a bit of that pressure by taking on more of the objectives in the gray area for the students I work with.
Getting creative with how objectives are addressed has also been important this year for efficiency and again, because we are all so overwhelmed. Rather than lesson-planning for each session individually, I have implemented more long-term projects for several students incorporating the IEP objectives in the areas for which I am responsible. Some of these projects can include collaboration with the related service providers facilitating inclusion of their goals as well. For example, some students are working on college-related research projects. Researching colleges, working with disability services and identifying areas of strength and challenge are all critical life skills. Students have chosen to research and create slide shows, Google Docs or other types of presentations to organize the information they find through websites, interviews and email contact with schools. Students are motivated and excited because this is real life! We are able to weave in communication goals (interviews / emails) comprehension (reading website or brochure information and creating follow up questions) writing skills (summarizing what they have learned) and oral presentation skills when these projects are eventually shared.
Some younger students are creating slide shows or iMovie presentations about their hearing loss. We incorporate the objectives into these presentations in a similar manner. These projects are a nice break for everyone from the monotony of normal routines! They also give me some flexibility as my lesson-planning time decreases and is more focused on facilitation and ensuring that I am meeting the necessary areas, rather than shorter daily plans.
The need for creativity and collaboration continue to be top priorities. The more we work together, the easier it will be to carry on!